Baby Sleeping on Chest at Night

My 2 1/2 month old son sleeps on my chest at night and I’d like to change this arrangement.

I started doing this at about 3 weeks as he was not sleeping well in his bassinet beside our bed. He is extremely active during sleep, thrashing around constantly and getting out of the swaddle all the time.

On my chest he sleeps peacefully and doesn’t move at all. Currently he sleeps for up to 5 hours at a time during the night and only nurses twice nightly.

The problem is that there is not enough room in the bed for my husband as I need props for my arms to keep myself comfortable, and I would also like to be able to sleep in different positions if I want to. I can’t do this with my son on my chest.

I tried putting him beside me on his back and on his side but he just wiggled around constantly keeping me awake and not allowing him to get rest.

He is also a big spitter upper and it is worse on his back, so I am worried that after a big night feed if I put him on his back he’ll wake up spitting up.

So, now I’m debating whether to put him in a cradle beside the bed or to keep him in the bed with me but by my side. Either way he will have to learn to sleep peacefully on his back. How do I do this?

Every time I try I lay him down, swaddled, within 5 minutes he’s awake and wiggling his way out of the swaddle, eventually crying to be picked up. He also naps during the day either in my arms or in a swing, but he naps best in my arms.

My husband thinks it’s fine to let him cry it out, but I think he’s too young for that and I’d rather find a gentler way to make this transition.

Also, would it be safe to let him sleep on his tummy either beside me in bed or in a cradle beside the bed? I prefer him to be on his back but I’m worried that this will be a long a difficult process to get him sleeping peacefully on his back and out of my arms.

Any advice would be much appreciated!

Answer:

This is a hard situation because you want your baby to sleep well, but you also want to get some sleep!

My baby Galen is also a pretty big thrasher in bed and a lot of times I’ve felt a little “trapped” because I had to be in one position or another to keep him happy.

Every baby is different but there are some suggestions that may help you.

Firstly, swaddling is good for babies who move and thrash around a lot. How are you swaddling him? Are you using a regular blanket?

Don’t be afraid to swaddle very tightly. It’s important that he be snug and tight. It’s also important that his arms be pretty straight when you swaddle him, otherwise he can wriggle out.

You may need to do the swaddle again if he wriggles out part-way through the night, but you should swaddle tightly enough to hold him for awhile.

The best blanket for us has been the Miracle Blanket. It really does work very well.

I would try getting him used to sleeping by your side at this point. That way he’s still very close to you and can nurse easily (practice nursing lying down during the day if you need to). He’ll be cuddled up with you that way, but he’ll also be getting used to sleeping on the bed.

After he’s gotten comfortable on the bed beside you, you can try putting him the cradle/bassinet if you feel comfortable with that.

Another thing you may try early in the evening is to wear him in a sling or another baby carrier until he falls asleep. You can even swaddle him before you put him in the sling. Then when he falls asleep just lower him into the cradle or bassinet. This worked very well with my first son, who was also a thrasher. I’d swaddle him, nurse him, then walk with him the sling until he fell asleep.

I would say the best strategy is probably to try and start out the night with him on your side, then if he wakes and you can’t get him settled, put him on your chest for the rest of the night.

You should be able to gradually get him used to the new sleeping arrangements.

It’ll be very beneficial to work on getting him comfortable at your side because it’ll mean changed positions for you, and hopefully your husband will be able to come back to the bed too. It’s hard when you’re in that situation because it can cause strain on you and your husband.

I would say if your little one gets upset at the start of the night just calmly talk to him, offer to nurse him, etc. – but be firm that he’s going to go off to sleep by your side (rather than up on your chest). It may be hard for several nights but he will learn to sleep peacefully beside you.

A final tip for if he’s wriggling a lot at night – put your leg over his legs. This is not forcefully holding him down… but babies are often comforted by the weight of your legs over their legs. This little tip has been effective with all of my babies.

One resource you may want to check out is The Baby Sleep Solution – I really like this program because it’s gentle, and it actually works to help you and your baby get better sleep :)